Jaipur

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We arrived in Jaipur at 4:50 a.m. A rickshaw took us from the train station to Krishna Palace in Bani Park where we would stay the next six nights.

We postponed booking a train several nights onward from Jaipur so we could enjoy Holi Festival in the bustling capital city of Rajasthan. I figured we would make the most of it and take a few days to be hermits, indulge in reading, writing, shopping and handicraft workshops.

We temporarily resided in an empty room and around 10 a.m. we were called downstairs and settled in to a much smaller (cheaper) room then quickly set out to explore.

Despite the thousands of rickshaws offering relatively cheap rides, we opted to walk, thinking that the little inch on the LP map didn’t look that daunting.

About an hour and a half later we arrived at the Old City walls.

Wait, this can’t be right I said aloud clumsily opening the oversized free city map. I thought this was supposed to be the “Pink City?” I imagined protected within those pretty pink walls would be a quiet, but thrilling maze of market lined streets selling brightly colored produce, silks, fragrant spices, leather sandals, drawer knobs and brilliantly colored bangles.

Um. Not so much.

It’s basically a ghetto Home Depot and Dollar Store stretched over miles and miles.

We took a few laps up and down the streets hopeful we would find the pretty stretch I imagined. That pretty stretch doesn’t exist.

Having skipped the last three meals we decided to find the Indian Coffee House, the only coffee joint that had a reputation for having real coffee in Jaipur.

After an hour of circles and zig-zags and misguided directions we eventually found the place. The interior was sea-foam green with worn once-brown leather chairs. Conversations bounce excitedly off the aged concrete walls that are adorned with non-distracting prints. Dishes clatter loudly in the kitchen tucked to the right immediately inside the creaking screen front door. Servers are dressed in their British-India styled freshly pressed white outfits and their hats remind me of a proud male peacock showing off his feathers.

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I liked the place. It made you feel like you time-traveled to 1930’s, and although I have no idea what that would look like, it reminds you that life can be simple.

We ordered coffee for 15 rupees each and then tried out an idly – a baby fluffy pancake made from rice flour. I could get used to this.

Refreshed, we revisited the streets and further pursued my dream of workshops and courses during our extended stay in Jaipur. We found the Astrology Center I had researched. I inquired about courses and walked out buckled over laughing that the only accurate reading that palm reader would give me is that I would be flat broke after the completion of their scammy $300 USD “course.”

Trying to salvage the afternoon, we went to the City Palace, the most visited attraction in Jaipur. For 300 rupees and with unimpressed visitors exiting the palace, we just could not be bothered to pretend to be interested in another ancient royal home. So we happily opted out of that site.

Still slightly hooked up on my astrology course failure, I convinced James to go to the Jantar Mantar. We managed to get a Composite Entry Ticket at the foreign student price, making entry to five of the most popular sights in Jaipur only 175 rupees total, which is an incredible price.

Bouncing around all excited about our discount, we headed into the Jantar Mantar. The Jantar Mantar is a World Heritage Monument (UNESCO) and although the instruments are more complicated than getting bubble gum cleanly off the bottom of your shoe, it was completely worth it and extremely interesting.

Five observatories were built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in the early 18th century after he convinced royalty that India needed to have an accurate map of the stars.

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Although visually appealing, the marble and stone grand instruments made absolutely no sense to me without an explanation. We pathetically purchased the audio guide at 150 rupees and in our attempt to save $2, decided to share it. The cheap audio guide outsmarted us and only let us listen to each point a single time, so James and I had a lovely little listen-and-teach session, doubling the amount of time most visitors donate inside the observatory.

We enjoyed it.

At closing time we were ushered out of the observatory and back into the streets. Again, thinking it would be nice to stretch our legs we made the walk back, two hours later we arrived at Krishna Palace, pretty hungry, thirsty and pooped.

Not caring to venture for food, we found ourselves hanging at the hotel rooftop restaurant for dinner.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We were up and out of Krishna Palace at 9 a.m. as we had booked a rickshaw for the entire day to take us to the major sites. Jaipur city is overwhelmingly sprawling and walking from site-to-site is not a great option.

Our driver took us first to our new favorite joint, the Indian Coffee House. We got coffees and masala dosas, a gram flour crepe-style thin pancake stuffed with spinach, potatoes and kicking-hot masala spices.

Fired up we then were taken 10km north of the city center to Amber Fort and Palace. Rulers Man Singh I, Mirza Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh built this impressive fort and palace, and it took us several hours to explore.

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We then headed to Jal Mahal, the water palace floating on top of Man Sagar Lake, for a quick photo stop.

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Our driver then took us to a textile and block printing shop, per our request.

We ended up wandering through some of their factory and showrooms.

IMG_0629 IMG_0630 IMG_0631 IMG_0633 IMG_0634 IMG_0635 We pretended to be interested in bed throws simply to score some free coffees.

Somehow they won, because we ended up purchasing pillow covers. Let the nesting period in Seattle begin in full swing I suppose…

Our driver then brough us to Nahargarh Fort. The 30 minute hike up to the fort deters 90 percent of visitors, so we basically had the entire site to ourselves.

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Pretty pumped about our exceptionally productive and toursity day, our driver then took us to the Old City where we went into the Hawamahal.

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The Hawamahal was built by a poet and king, Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 A.D. The pink sandstone building is quite impressive from the front, ironically when paying to visit you enter through the rear.

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It is nicknamed the palace of the winds due to the 953 windows (jharokhas) that open out to the bazaars below, allowing women of the royal household to watch the busy world below them without sacrificing their own privacy.

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I’d say this building is completely appropriate for this country! I loved it!

After touring the palace, we spent some time perusing the busy streets, overpopulated with shops before deciding to head back to the Indian Coffee House to see our favorite waiter, get some excellent vegetable pakora and then head back home.

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